LION, Pa. – John C. Tierney of Red Lion, Pa., born August 4, 1942 in Brooklyn, N.Y., died on Oct. 21, 2018 after a long battle with Parkinson’s Disease.

The son of Charles J. and Agnes V. (Quinn) Tierney, he is survived by his wife, Mary Ann Hildebrand-Tierney of Red Lion, Pa. and his five children, Quinn Tierney, Michelle Shields, Dennis Vilorio, Laura Vilorio Jackson and Andrea Vilorio.  He is also survived by one sister, Anne Thureson of Seattle, Wa. and two brothers, James Tierney of Lisbon Falls, Maine and David Tierney of Hixson, Tn.

John was a graduate of Brunswick High School in Brunswick, Maine and the University of Maine which he represented in the nationally televised “College Bowl.”  He also earned a Masters Degree in French. John served in the Peace Corps in Brazil for 2 years and was a refugee officer with the State Department during the Vietnam War.  He then worked for many years for the Immigration Service in Stratton, Maine, as well as California, Florida and New York ending his career in Washington, D.C. in 2007.  After he retired, he and Mary Ann moved to Red Lion, Pa where he attended Chapel Church.

John participated fully in his time and place.  He arrived in Vietnam in 1968 just weeks after the Tet Offensive had devastated that country.  From his arrival and until the end of 1969, he worked without concern for his own safety seven days a week finding food and returning displaced people to their homes in remote villages and saving countless lives.  Working for the Immigration Service, he repeatedly volunteered to be assigned to the world’s most troubled spots.  In 1975 and 1979, he was on Guam and in Indonesia on crisis refugee details.  He was on the docks in 1980 for the Mariel boatlift and later spent months processing refugees in Sierra Leone and Liberia.

John was just blocks from the World Trade Center on the morning of September 11, 2001 where he endangered his own life in an effort to help victims.

John read widely and loved languages.  He was fluent in Spanish, Portuguese, Vietnamese, French, Cantonese, and even Latin.  John often travelled for pleasure to South and Central America and once returned to Vietnam where he bicycled hundreds of miles and greeted astonished villagers in their native language.

It wasn’t all doom and gloom.   In 2003 he and his brother were behind third base at Yankee Stadium when Aaron Boone hit his infamous home run off Tim Wakefield, and then returned to the same seat in 2004 to watch his beloved Red Sox at last vanquish their mortal foe.

John is the author of two books, China: The New Paper Tiger and A Walk in the Garden of Time.

In addition to his ultimately fatal Parkinson’s Disease, John had cancer twice, escaped the collapse of the Twin Towers, broke several bones in Brazil and was deafened by a Kalashnikov in Vietnam.  In his later years he was known to remark how lucky he was to have reached old age at all.

John had a gift for life and wanted to thank all of those who made it so.  His great passion in life was helping others who were in the greatest peril, and his biggest regret was that after he became ill he was no longer able to do so. He requests that any thoughts of his life be interpreted as a call to help the world’s poor of whom there are vast numbers.


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